Recently I had the great pleasure of reading a new release from Syracuse University Press’s “Library of Modern Jewish Literature” series: The Day My Mother Changed Her Name and Other Stories, by William D. Kaufman. As a bonus, one of the book’s two forewords is by Max Apple, whose work I’ve also discussed on this blog.
The second foreword to this unusual collection comes from Carol Montparker, to whom the book owes much. It was Montparker’s discovery of Kaufman and his stories–Kaufman attracted her attention when reading from his work to audiences at the assisted living residence where both he and Montparker’s mother were residing–that led to this publication. “I got it into my head that I must find a publisher for Bill Kaufman,” Montparker writes. And after making copies of Kaufman’s stories, researching publishers, and contacting editors on Kaufman’s behalf, Montparker struck gold with Syracuse. And in his tenth decade of life, William Kaufman published his first story collection.
Montparker believes that Kaufman’s writing is “not unlike I.B. Singer’s in its folkloric aspects, with a dash of S.J. Perelman’s ironic humor thrown in but even more charming and witty and altogether engaging.” I probably shouldn’t admit that I’ve read relatively little Singer or Perelman, but if they’re anything like Kaufman, I’ll have to remedy that soon!
Because these stories–most very brief and seemingly rooted in the author’s early twentieth-century childhood (the jacket also characterizes them as “semi-autobiographical works” and informs us that Kaufman is “the son of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania and the Ukraine”)–are simply a pleasure to read. If you’re yearning to immerse yourself for a little while in a Yiddish-inflected America, to a world of observant Jews who send their children to cheder in the American Northeast, then you’ll find your place in these stories. And there’s a bonus: a glossary to help those of us who may have become too assimilated here in the United States to recognize every Hebrew or Yiddish word.
Most serious reviewers try to avoid words like “heartwarming,” but I can’t deny that these stories warmed my heart. They may well do the same for yours.
I won’t be in New York City this weekend, but if you are, you might want to look into Sunday’s BYFI Fall Forum, “Culture Shock: Jewish Writing in America.” Program details and ticket information available here.
“The Hadassah-Brandeis Institute (HBI) seeks energetic, tech-savvy, self-starter to play key role in essential communications projects. This person reports to the Director of Communications, assisting with PR and marketing campaigns, delivery of communications products, and acting as project manager for specific assignments. Must have excellent written and verbal communications, organizational, and computer skills, and have ability to work independently with careful attention to detail. Familiarity with HTML and graphic design background a plus, artistic eye a necessity. This position works as part of a team on diverse projects in a fast-paced and flexible environment, and the ideal candidate will be comfortable participating in discussions and taking on new challenges with enthusiasm.” For more information, about the position (and the HBI), click here.
I won’t be able to attend this event, but if you’re in New York City tomorrow evening and have the time and inclination you may want to stop by the Tenement Museum and sit in on a panel on “The State of Jewish Fiction.” From the Web site: “Jewish writers, including Joshua Henkin, Binnie Kirshenbaum, Ellen Feldman, and Tova Mirvis discuss faith and culture in literature today. The authors will debate the role graduate writing programs play in shaping contemporary literature.” The event is co-sponsored by JBooks and begins at 6:30 pm. Details here.
This just in from the folks at Zeek:
“Zeek, a journal of Jewish thought and culture, invites you to join us October 24-26 in San Diego as we explore personal, spiritual, and political borderlines during an exciting weekend on the theme, Border Crossings.
Cross from the U.S. to Israel with the dance music of Israeli-American sub-dub performer Badawi, who mixes Middle-eastern melodies with New York hip-hop.
Cross from your secular life to new spiritual experience with Mexican Jewish community organizer Jessica Kreimerman Lew and Cantor Kathy Robbins.
Navigate cultural borderlines with poet David Antin, Israeli-Spanish translator Merav Rozenblum, artist Bara Sapir, and artist Eleanor Antin.
Consider the place of the stranger who has crossed the border during discussions with Sanctuary movement activists and leaders, moderated Rabbi Laurie Coskey.
Participate in a Judaism you’ve never experienced before, with an outdoor drumming circle Friday, an LGBTQ-oriented service Saturday morning, a dance party Saturday night and, on Sunday, a drive out to the border with Methodist minister John Fanestil.
You can’t miss this exciting weekend. Experience all three days or drop-in for just a while. But come!”
You’ll find the complete schedule here.